Workplace Safety

This section covers threats that you may encounter at your workplace. Although this guide cannot comprehensively cover every possible risk given the wide variety of workplaces available, there are a handful of common risks of which you should be aware and be able to respond to regardless of what your job might be.

Remember the basics

While most jobs today are unlikely to carry any specific safety threats, some workplaces (especially those that require working with heavy machinery or in potentially dangerous conditions) are inherently risky and may require you to be exposed to unsafe conditions. Be sure to learn of any threats associated with your job as well as the safety precautions that have been implemented to protect you from them. For more information about workplace-specific safety risks, it may be useful to enroll in one of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outreach training programs. These cover information on how to identify and avoid most job-related hazards while also explaining your employer’s responsibilities and your rights as a worker. More information can be found at, along with information on how to find nearby outreach training programs. In many cases, your job also will provide some degree of safety training.


Although the decision to disclose your condition to your co-workers should be a personal one and may not always be necessary, there are several reasons it may be worthwhile to share your diagnosis with your employer and/or supervisor. Not only will they be better able to respond to your needs and accommodations, it can also help prevent misunderstandings that arise from your behavior. More importantly, you cannot apply for workplace anti-discrimination protection unless you have already disclosed your condition. Without this protection, your employer is under no legal obligation to stop any harassment directed at you on account of your disability. However, it may not always be wise to disclose at the earliest possible time. Revealing your condition during the job application process may cause your application to be turned down, and choosing to disclose upon criticism of your job performance can give the impression that you are using the diagnosis to avoid responsibility or are simply making excuses. Ideally, you should disclose on your own initiative during a time when work is going well for you; when doing so, be sure to present it in a positive light
while asking for specific accommodations that will maximize your job performance.

In some cases, it may even be possible to request accommodations without specifically disclosing that you are on the autism spectrum (e.g., explaining that you have trouble working under fluorescent lights without actually saying that your autism makes it difficult for you to cope with them); if you have reason to believe that disclosure may do more harm than good, then it may be beneficial to ask for accommodations in this
more roundabout manner rather than being explicit about why they are needed.

Ultimately, the decision on whether to disclose sooner or later (if at all) is just as dependent on your employer and job as it is on you. If you think that disclosing your condition may do more harm than good for any reason, then consider not disclosing. This should only be done if you have no better alternatives. In this case, however, your best bet may be to find a new job that would be more accepting of your condition.


Some people might claim that bullies pick on others because they lack self-esteem, but this is far from the truth—they do it because they have learned that they can get away with using force to control other people and gain satisfaction from exerting that power over those who lack the ability to retaliate against them. As an individual with autism, you are a preferred target for bullying, and the same traits that lead individuals with autism to become frequent bullying victims can in some cases encourage observers to blame the victim instead of the bully. For example, situations in which your behavior already distinguishes you in a negative manner can lead onlookers to perceive that you “had it coming.” While it may not always be possible to suppress these behaviors completely, it may be helpful to learn how to control them just enough
to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to you.

The stereotypical image of a bully is a brutish individual demanding that you give him your lunch money, but in practice there are also more subtle methods of bullying that do not rely solely on threats and physical violence. Bullying also can take the form of teasing and verbal abuse, as well as spreading rumors, exclusion from social activities, and online harassment (commonly referred to as “cyberbullying”). More malicious are the bullies who may feign friendship with you just long enough for you to trust them, only to betray that trust when doing so would be most damaging (personally or professionally) for you. This can be especially devastating since it can make it difficult to trust people enough to form friendships in the future.Regardless of what form the bullying takes, your best option is to inform a trusted authority figure (such as a supervisor or an HR representative) with all due haste.

Ignoring bullying will not stop it from happening, and trying to fight back might escalate the bullying, and that is more likely to get you in trouble than anything else. If the authority figure in question fails to acknowledge or stop the bullying, then seek help from a higher-ranked authority figure as needed. If the bullying is so severe as to affect your job performance or is being carried out by one of your superiors,
then you should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They will determine if your employers have violated anti-discrimination laws, provide mediation services and the possibility for an out-of-court settlement, and grant you permission to sue your employer (or do so themselves if they find that your employer has violated the laws) if mediation fails. Information on how to file a complaint to them can be found here:

Helpful Resources

  • Understanding Autism: An Employer’s Guide (PDF)
    This guide from the Organization for Autism Research (OAR) should be presented to your employer at your earliest convenience to help them understand your needs and adapt to them.
  • Workplace Bullying Institute
    This site hosts information on how to identify and stop workplace bullying, as well as provides access to educational material for employers and psychotherapists to help them combat workplace bullying.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
    OSHA’s role is to ensure safe working conditions and provide information on a variety of health hazards that may be encountered in the workplace. If you believe that your workplace’s safety regulations are insufficient, the Web site also has information on how to request an inspection from OSHA to ensure that those regulations meet OSHA standards.